ESRC Wales DTC PhD in Social Sciences: ‘Risk Work’ – An Ethnography of Health Professionals in the Context of Risk and Uncertainty (PhD Studentship)

Applications are being sought for a prestigious, full-time ESRC Doctoral Training Centre for Wales (Wales DTC) PhD Studentship to be based in the School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University, to begin in October 2016, on the topic “Risk Work’ – An Ethnography of Health Professionals in the Context of Risk and Uncertainty”.

This award is +3 studentship which provides funding for three years of PhD research study only. 

Reference Number: R2710

Closing Date: 21/03/2016

Duration: 3 years

Funding Amount: full UK/EU fees, plus Stipend

Level of Study: Postgraduate Research

Regions: EU (Non UK), UK

Supervisor: Dr Gareth Thomas

Start date: 1 October 2016

Number of Studentships: 1

Title – “Risk Work: An Ethnography of Health Professionals in the Context of Risk and Uncertainty”

The unsustainability of a cure-focused NHS and the need for a stronger approach to managing health risks has been widely articulated. The Wanless Report (2002) urged the UK government to develop a better strategy for reducing preventable illness caused by ‘unhealthy behaviours’, claiming that engaging the public in the management of their own health should be the cornerstone of future policy. But who is at the frontline of this prevention industry, and what does this ‘risk work’ look like? Little is currently known about the backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and goals of NHS professionals, para-professionals and lay health workers with respect to their work around early detection and health promotion. This proposed studentship will elaborate upon the concept of ‘risk work’, as developed by academics in the UK (Nicola Gale – University of Birmingham; Gareth Thomas – Cardiff University; Sheila Greenfield – University of Birmingham) and Netherlands (Patrick Brown – University of Amsterdam), through a qualitative study of health professionals in Wales. Guided by theoretical approaches which develop understandings of professionals’ life-worlds (e.g. Bourdieu, Habermas, Garfinkel, Horlick-Jones), the studentship will involve interviews with a range of health workers (e.g. doctors, midwives, dieticians/nutritionists, nurses, mental health staff, etc.) and observations of those on the frontline of rising ‘preventable’ illnesses. This will enable us to better understand what the risk work of health workers involves, how these roles relate to other roles in the health system, and the support and training needs of this important and growing workforce. The studentship will be a contemporary and highly important contribution to acknowledging the transferability of the risk work concept and it will support and extend recent research in science and technology studies, sociology, and anthropology on risk, work, risk communication, governance and surveillance in the context of health, and agency-focused (‘street-level’) approaches to implementing policies.

For more information on funding, eligibility, and how to apply, please visit the following link ( or email Gareth Thomas at

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